Gates defends Google

Shocking, I know.

Of course, when Bill “Evil” Gates starts defending your actions, you know you’ve done something wrong:

However, Mr Gates argued today that freedom of information is available in China, despite sites discussing issues such as Tiananmen Square and Taiwan being blocked.

“I do think information flow is happening in China … saying that even by existing there contributions to a national dialogue have taken place. There’s no doubt in my mind that’s been a huge plus.”

Google also defends itself as well on the Google Blog:

Launching a Google domain that restricts information in any way isn’t a step we took lightly. For several years, we’ve debated whether entering the Chinese market at this point in history could be consistent with our mission and values. Our executives have spent a lot of time in recent months talking with many people, ranging from those who applaud the Chinese government for its embrace of a market economy and its lifting of 400 million people out of poverty to those who disagree with many of the Chinese government’s policies, but who wish the best for China and its people. We ultimately reached our decision by asking ourselves which course would most effectively further Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally useful and accessible. Or, put simply: how can we provide the greatest access to information to the greatest number of people?

Filtering our search results clearly compromises our mission. Failing to offer Google search at all to a fifth of the world’s population, however, does so far more severely. Whether our critics agree with our decision or not, due to the severe quality problems faced by users trying to access Google.com from within China, this is precisely the choice we believe we faced. By launching Google.cn and making a major ongoing investment in people and infrastructure within China, we intend to change that.

You see, Google’s doing this for the greater good. Which really isn’t that implausible I guess, but I still don’t like it. But what can be done? All the major search engines have grabbed their ankles for China (Yahoo! did something especially nasty, as Bob points out). I guess Google was on a pedestal considering it’s past history, it’s commitment to free services, and it’s motto “Do no evil.” I guess it still does no evil . . . no evil to it’s stockholders.

6 thoughts on “Gates defends Google”

  1. Ah Steve, you you forgot to turn off your Apple Reality Distortion Field(TM)

    Bill “Evil” Gates has committed over 28 billion dollars to his charitable foundation which gives away more than a billion of that each year for things like HIV/AIDS, TB, Polio, and Malaria research, vaccines for children, computers for US Libraries, housing for low-income folks, and scholarships for everything under the sun.

    Regarding China, while state censorship is obviously a Bad Thing(TM), having access to Google, even in a censored form is surely a benefit for those in China. We all know that blacklists can’t catch everything – people in China now have a greater chance of learning a bit more about the world around them.

    The title of the article that you link to is also pure flamebait, I would expect something like that from Slashdot :doh:

    From the article: “The richest man in the world told delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos that he thought the internet ‘is contributing to Chinese political engagement’ as ‘access to the outside world is preventing more censorship’.”

    And I agree with that. Allowing the world’s best search engine to exist in China, even by limited means is better than blocking it outright.

  2. Steve, you’re taking a distinctly non-conservative approach here. I just want you to be aware of it.

    When you list out all of Google’s stakeholders, it seems to be a fairly rational decision:

    Shareholders = Opening up the Chinese market for Google is a good thing for shareholders. As a publicly held corporation, increasing shareholder value is a big piece of the Stakeholder Theory Pie.
    Employees = Ideally, more business means more money, means more jobs and better benefits for existing employees.
    Suppliers = More advertising opportunities in one of the worlds fastest growing markets is definitely beneficial to Google’s suppliers (ie. advertising clients).
    Customers = Considering the fact that almost everything on Google is free, and driven by ad revenue and search services, more business for Google means more capital for new/better services which Google provides to us for free. A good thing.

    If you use stakeholder theory to determine whether or not it’s an appropriate decision, Google seems to have covered all of their bases.

    This is what corporations do. Part of the reason they exist is to void individuals of liability. They may not always make the most “moral” decisions, but a corporation isn’t bound by the same code of ethics an individual is bound by.

  3. Yes Matt, corporations are always going to do was in their best interest. That’s why it’s our responsibility as consumers and citizens to make sure that we hold them to higher standards.

    Most companies could care less about environmental concerns, because they cut into profits. However, with the growing amount of clamor about environmental concerns, plus the HUGE costs in repairing ecological disasters, lots of companies are realizing that it IS in their better (fiscal) interest to be more environmentally friendly. These changes are slow, but steady, like most things. As long as we, as consumers, are willing to make certain unethical practices less profitable, corporations will shift to make more money.

  4. The dilemma is that (at least from a popular perspective) Google did not only what was in their best interest, but in the best interest of any number of individuals or businesses that are at the very least peripherally involved with Google.

    And consumers holding corporations to higher standards is a very tough proposition. It takes a whole lot of unethical behavior to make a small dent in the profitability of a company. Nine times out of ten the bottom line is going to dictate consumer action.

  5. Matt, just to jump in real quick:

    I don’t deny that Google’s move into China is probably a no-brainer of a business decision. I’d also echo Fluger’s comment, and as a consumer with a conscience I’m upset. However, I’m not sure I’d advocate any governmental intervention as long as they aren’t violating any laws.

    Second, I’d defend my conservative pedigree by claiming that conservatives don’t believe in “pro-business at all costs.” We believe in “pro-business with a minimal cost.” Which I think most people would agree on. Businesses should be allowed to operate with only the minimum amount of costs. It just remains to be argued what costs are part of that minimum (e.g. environmental concerns, human rights concerns, etc.).

  6. I totally understand your statement regarding being upset, as a consumer with a conscience. I guess I take issue with Google taking so much flak over this because it’s such a “headline-garnering” and transparent business decision. There are plenty of corporations that do more “bad business” than Google on a day to day basis, but are able to keep it under the radar.

    I also disagree with the idea that conservative belief is “pro-business at a minimal cost.” Unless the company is doing something outright illegal, profitability is going to be the primary determinant of what is and what isn’t minimal. So, the belief would have to be more like “pro-business at a minimal cost provided profitability is maintained.”

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